Some 1,500 members of the Jewish faith representing a variety of communities and traditions of religious observance live in the Greater Victoria area and the Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island aims to give all of them a home.
“We are an entirely secular organization, so ‘Jewish’ in our case is any Jew — regardless of affiliation or religious commitment,” said David Blades, president. “We represent the Jews on the Island, much like other organizations represent their faith groups, only we don’t have a religious angle to our organization — we are ‘all-encompassing’ or try to be.”
This goal also appears in the wide range of activities, which the federation pursues. It hosts Jewish celebrations, holds events that educate Jewish and non-Jews about Jewish religion and culture, and helps raise funds for various Jewish organizations. They include the Jewish Community Centre and Jewish Family Services.
“So our fund-raising helps seniors and those who need extra help in the Jewish community in Victoria,” said Blades.
This financial support extends throughout the community. “For example, we sponsor kids going to camp, support the Jewish Film Festival, [and] support some local choirs,” he said.
The federation also hosts local Holocaust memorial services, events marking Israel’s independence, and coordinates relations with provincial organizations and other community agencies.
“We also work closely with law enforcement agencies to track and document anti-Semitic acts,” he said.
One of the centres of Jewish life in the Greater Victoria area is the Jewish Community Centre of Victoria, out of which the federation operates. It includes spaces for community activities and festivities, an extensive library, and the Lox, Stock and Bagel deli serving Jewish delicacies, including popular potato latkes prepared during the Hannukah period.
The federation also has a presence at the University of Victoria, by being part of university’s multi-faith organization.
In short, the federation tries to nourish the Jewish community in many ways. “I see our major contribution as being a non-sectarian agency that offers opportunity to the Jewish community and greater Victoria and Vancouver Island community,” said Blades.